Welcome to volume two of my blog paying homage to the football clubs I've visited all over the world and the wonderful people responsible for keeping them going and looking after the stadiums, and in some cases basic grounds.

Since I was a little lad I've been fascinated in football and more so where games are played. With my love of travel and curiosity of the game I wanted to visit as many grounds and see games wherever possible. I was lucky that my Dad also loved the game and spent so much of his spare time taking me to matches. As I got older the boundaries widened owing to my location and increased wages to Europe and indeed the world. The sight of a stand or a floodlight pylon in the distance immediately hightens my senses and eagerness for a closer look.

I hope this site gives you the chance to share in my pleasure and experiences and maybe one day set you on the road to adventure. If you get half as much out of the hobby as I've done I can guarantee some great memories, good friends and stories to pass on to future generations.

Give your local club a go today. They'll be pleased to see you!

Everlasting thanks primarily to my late and very much missed and dearly loved parents; my Dad Bob Bernard and my Mum; Ann, who put up with endless years of football chat and my brothers Nick and Paul who gave me the chance and encouragement to do what I have. Thanks to all my friends who offer encouragement and Sally and Stan who inspire and give me great pride. Young Stan is showing a keen interest in my hobby!

Please feel free to post any comments (please use sensible language - I want everyone to be able to enjoy reading) or ask any questions relating to visiting grounds or events. If you want to see any ground reviewed please let me know. It will take quite some time for everywhere to appear, but make sure you keep having a look as the site is continually updated.

If you click on a lot of the pictures you will get a larger version on your screen.

I have also added links to video clips on youtube where appropriate for those of you who are bored of reading or are filling in time at work. I haven't always gone for the most obvious choices, but items that will be in some cases unusual but always historically interesting.

Click to see volume one of HAOTW.

Rob Bernard

London

September 2015

Sunday, February 5, 2012

North Greenford United

North Greenford United FC is a non-league football club from Greenford, which is in the west of London. United were formed in 1944 by Mr Alf Timpson, originally as a youth side, before a senior team was added in 1947.

The club played in local leagues and cup competitions for many years until becoming members of the Middlesex League. 'The Blues' won that league's title in 1983 and gained promotion into the Spartan League. Within five seasons they progressed to the premier division, but in 1995 United chose to return to the Middlesex League.


The club were keen to rebuild and by 2002 they had installed floodlights at their Berkeley Fields home, regained senior status and joined the Combined Counties League. Steve Ringrose, a successful manager who had taken neighbours Hillingdon Borough all the way to the FA Vase final a few years previously took over as team manager prior to the 2008-09 season and led the side to a runners up position. 

The following season United went one better, lifting the title and promotion to the Southern League.



The club's intention was consolidation and this was achieved as well as lifting the Middlesex Senior Charity Cup after defeating Enfield Town in the final. Ringrose left the club in December 2011 and was replaced by former Premier League striker Neil Shipperley.

Shipperley lasted until February 2014, to be replaced by a succession of bosses in a short time as the team struggled to maintain their status. They received a huge boost when they finished in the relegation places in 2014-15 under the stewardship of Barry Morris when they were reprieved following the demise of Hereford United.


Early into the 2015-16 Morris was replaced by George Bouhet, who in turn last just a couple of months before former United players Ricky Pither and Danny Bennell took over as joint managers. 

However, the new bosses couldn't save United from relegation, as their six year spell as a Step Four club came to an end in April 2016 as they were relegated to the Premier Division of the Combined Counties League after United successfully appealed against their placement to the Hellenic League.


Pither and Bennell were replaced in October 2016 by the experienced pairing of Danny Vincent and Colin Murphy who led the team to a mid table finish a

North Greenwich United FC will compete in the Combined Counties League Premier Division in the 2017-18 season.





My visits

Friday 20th October 2006

I had the day off from work and had decided to do a bit of groundhopping and photography around West London. After visiting Yeading, Hayes and Hanwell Town I took the Central line to Greenford and then walked across Horsenden Hills playing fields before eventually finding the entrance to the ground.



The gate was open so I walked past the clubhouse and changing rooms, which were located behind the goal to view the scene.

Berkeley Fields was more than adequate for the Combined Counties League, with a small modern seated stand behind one goal, and a small cover down one touchline. The reast of the ground consisted of open flat grass and a hard standing path around the playing area.




I walked back out to Greenford Road and found a bus to take me to my next port of call, Earlsmead the home of Harrow Borough.

North Greenford United 1 Ashford Town (Middx) 1 (Saturday 31st December 2011) Southern League Division One Central (att: 83)




The long road that was 2011, which began at Hendon v Harrow Borough and took in at least fifty three matches, ended at Berkeley Fields for the Middlesex derby in which United needed something to help in their fight against relegation.




I was on night shift, so this fixture with its relatively easy accessibility fitted the bill perfectly. I arrived after a walk and then a couple of tube rides before I alighted at Sudbury Hill station. 



After a walk of around fifteen minutes I paid my £8 on the gate, plus another couple of quid for the slightly overpriced programme. I had been listening to the Manchester United v Balckburn Rovers game on my radio throughout my journey and entered the warm and friendly clubhouse to see the last few minutes while I enjoyed a shandy.




The clubhouse was one of the better ones I'd visited. If it had real ale, even if just in bottles, it would have been near on perfect. The service was hospitable and the decor top class. I particularly liked features such as the club mirror and carpet with the crest on it. 

There were also a good selection of signed shirts framed on the walls from various local clubs, as well as one from former youth player Sam Hurrell who was awarded a contract with Chelsea FC after winning Sky TV's Football Icon competition in November 2005.



After enjoying Rovers burst the Old Trafford bubble I ventured outside. Berkeley Fields was pretty similar to my previous visit, apart from the addition of a covered standing area behind the near goal alongside the seated stand. 

Other things I noted was that despite United playing in blue, all paintwork, fences and seats were green to fit into the relatively rural surroundings. The pitch also sloped from the top right hand corner right across the pitch. The playing surface was in decent condition, if a little bobbly in places.



The game got underway with Ashford kicking downhill with more of the possession in their excellent orange and white striped jerseys. United were being led by new boss Neil Shipperley for the first time. 

Judging by his waistline, it looked like he had given up his gym membership for the last couple of years. He made me look slim! His side had an occasional break, but the visitors were in general control. It came as no suprise when they went ahead following a short corner. Mark Bitmead was left unmarked to score with a fine diving header.



I had my usual walk around the ground before taking a seat behind the goal and observing an extremely passionate Town supporter. He had a lovely flag draped over the fence and stood alone barking out encouragement and advice to the officials, even if the incident occured at the far end. 

He never swore, and on one occasion he burst into a solo "C'mon Ashford" for a few seconds. For anyone who has seen the great Ripping Yarns episode Golden Gordon; and if you haven't I suggest you do, this supporter was like Gordon Ottershaw's southern nephew. If only all local clubs received more of this deserved support the world would be a better place.



I decamped to the clubhouse at half time to see the scores, which were going pretty well as far as my six team accumalator was concerned before sampling a cheeseburger and bovril for the combined price of £4.



I thought that Shipperley's half time team talk and the advantage of the slope may even the game up in the second half. United did have a bit more play, but Town were the better side. They continued where they left off, having already hit the woodwork twice in the first half. Greenford's keeper Aaron Bufton and his defenders were performing heroics as well as having more than their fair share of lady luck on their side. A second goal wouldn't go in.



Ashford's keeper Paul McCarthy had a dicey moment with a clearance but he recovered. A friendly away fan among around thirty fellow travellers, offered his tongue in cheek well dones as McCarthy muttered away and shook his head. A few home fans had now come to sit behind the goal. One lady was very loud with her friendly encouragement, especially to home centre forward Ricky Pither.



United had a few more breaks going forward, but Ashford still looked the more likely to add to their tally. Then the home side attacked and the ball went wide. It was immediately volleyed across the area where Pither slid in to equalise to much delight from the homesters next to me. 

The Ashford gent asked them to keep the noise down! It was met with a reply of "I'll be even louder when the second and third go in." It was a really nice environment to watch a game and North Greenford really struck me as being a real community club.




The framework of the home goal was hit another three times, but it was not to be for Town. News of Chelsea's shock home defeat to Aston Villa came in just before the final whistle at Berkeley Fields. 

Meanwhile Ashford would surely wonder for weeks to come how they didn't win the game. They looked a decent team. As far as North Greenford were concerned it looked to me that Shipperley had something to work with, but would need a couple of new signings.


By now I was excited about my fixed odds coupon. News of a late Swindon winner came in and I felt certain that William Hills would be paying me over £500. What a way to start the New Year I thought! Then just as I was boarding the number 92 bus back to Wembley the man presenting Radio Five brought me news I couldn't quite believe. 

MK Dons were three nil up at Brentford but had somehow thrown it away to draw. I later found out the equaliser was scored in the ninety second minute. I had been happier at times during 2011, shall we say! From five hundred smackers to nothing. I always did dislike that horrible franchise club.




My journey home was brilliant and even after going into Aldi in Kingsbury I was home before 6pm ready for a siesta before going to carry out my Dr Dolittle impersonations and talk to the animals while they celebrated New Year.

It had been a really good game to bring down the curtain on 2011. I really enjoyed the ambience at Berkeley Fields and wish them well in the future.


North Greenford United 3 Harpenden Town 4 (Saturday 9th September 2017) FA Vase First Qualifying Round (att: 32)


My options were pretty good despite being on early shift at work, knowing that Mick, my relief is as reliable and early as any of my colleagues. The FA Vase always throws up some interesting fixtures, so after a text to Steve Barnes we plumped for the tie at Berkeley Fields.

I took the tube from Ruislip to Sudbury Hill and walked down Greenford Road and Berkeley Avenue to the ground. There was plenty of Gaelic Football taking place on the main park with a sizeable crowd in attendance. I walked by and paid £6 admission, £1 for a programme and a strip of raffle tickets for a quid. A gent handed out free teamsheets in the bar.

There was just time for me to enjoy a bottle of Bitter and Twisted from the friendly lady behind the bar, who admitted she chose the bottled beer selection by the names she liked. It was also nice to bump into Gary; another hopper who I’d not seen for some time.


Gary told me that he’d given up on Charlton Athletic, not because of the football, but because of the owners. It was a tale I was becoming more and more familiar with on my travels. Steve appeared just before I headed out.

We took up a position in the cover near the half way line; and it’s as well that we did, as the first of several heavy showers dropped its load. The early stages suggested it was going to be a matter of how many goals the Harps were going to amass, such was their dominance.

Three gilt edged chances were spurned, with one hitting the top of the crossbar as the visitors kicked down the slope. On thirty minutes United defender Kamal Akel tripped a Harpenden attacker in the box with referee Alex Baker pointing to the spot. James Ewington slotted away the penalty.


The lead should have been doubled a few minutes later, as Ewington was sent clear with only keeper Alex Partridge to beat. However, he dragged his shot wide of the post. His side would head to the changing room ruing their missed opportunities.

Jordan Ellis cut inside from the right hand side and sent a fierce swerving shot into the corner, which left Connor Sansom, the Harpenden custodian, stranded to make it 1-1. We headed to the bar for another bottle and to catch up with the half time scores, finding out I missed out on the raffle prize by one strip.

We enjoyed the pleasant surroundings of the bar a little too much, as Ewington scored to put Harpenden back into the lead as we were making our way back out. We settled for a position in the standing cover behind the goal near to the home officials.


James Yates made it 3-1 on the hour mark with an excellent header past Partridge; who didn’t exactly fill me with confidence throughout the afternoon. North Greenford player-manager Danny Vincent made a couple of substitutions, which would invigorate his side.

With ten minutes remaining United fought their way back into the game following a period of fine football in which James Simmonds and Sandro Costa stood out. Nathaniel Mensah slotted home a low Costa cross to reduce the deficit.

We chatted with Pat Hillier, the United match secretary and programme editor, who confirmed that the game would go to extra time if level after ninety minutes; but not penalties. He had an empathetic ear regarding the arrangements and work that was required to stage a replay at short notice.


Referee Baker made a bold decision in the final minute of normal time. He adjudged that Vincent had been tripped in the area. The Harpenden players were adamant that he’d kicked the defenders leg which caused him to fall. Even some home fans wore wide grins.

Vincent’s kick was saved by Sansom, but the United man followed up to net. It looked like we’d be around for a bit longer. North Greenford poured forward looking for a winner, but it was perhaps that extra ambition that caused their downfall.

Harpenden broke away with Ewington completing his hat trick after Partridge spilled a shot, he probably should have done better with. It’s fair to say that the Town players were happy, and saw the winning goal as justice for the penalty decision.


We’d certainly had our moneys worth. The result was correct, but fair play to North Greenford who had battled well. It had been a really enjoyable couple of hours at a hospitable local football club.

Steve and I headed off past the vibrant Tir Chonaill Gaels clubhouse and across the park to cross the Grand Union Canal and walk along the towpath before enjoying a pint in the Black Horse. I said my goodbye and took the tube to Highbury & Islington to meet my friends Harry Panter and Sol Chatterjee for a few beers.


It’d been a fine afternoon out, with the FA Vase doing the trick once again.







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